In the first half of the twentieth century, Japanese politicians, military officers, and Pan-Asianists sought to exploit Muslim networks across Asia to conquer and control the continent. They recognized the strategic importance of Chinese-speaking Muslims, who are roughly equivalent to the present-day Hui ethnic group in the People’s Republic of China, and they took conciliatory measures towards them. Through Muslim-targeted magazines published in North China in the 1930s, Japan advertised its pro-Islamic attitude and attempted to garner support for its scheme to establish an anti-communist puppet-state in Xinjiang where Turkic Muslims (today’s Uyghurs) lived.
Previous scholarship has largely overlooked foreign Muslim collaboration with Japan, particularly by Tatar Muslims in the Russian Empire, who helped Japanese secret agents make contact with Chinese-speaking Muslims. Through the analysis of Chinese and Tatar Muslim periodicals and travelogues, as well as archives of the Japanese Imperial Army, this paper shows how Russian-Tatar Muslim collaborators with Japan who sought independence from the Soviet Union tried to win over Chinese-speaking Muslims. They propagated Pan-Asianism, Pan-Islamism, and anti-communism in Chinese periodicals sponsored by the Japanese army in the early twentieth century. Some Chinese-speaking Muslims supported the religious and political views of these Russian-Tatar Muslims and chose to collaborate with Japan, which led to the expansion of Japan’s Islamic campaigns in China in the 1930s.
Thus, this paper sheds light on how Pan-Asianist, Pan-Islamist, and anti-communist writings by Russian-Tatar Muslims in Chinese periodicals influenced Chinese Muslim society during the Sino-Japanese War, as well as international relations in modern Asia.